Chile takes deeper look at raspberry genetics
Chile's Center for Healthy Food Research (CREAS) has directed its development efforts at a delicate, seldom studied fruit in the South American nation. Soon, CREAS hopes to reveal gene analysis on the ripening of raspberries to provide a better understanding of the fruit's growth and processing.
In a conversation with www.freshfruitportal.com, CREAS researcher and biologist Lida Fuentes explained the raspberry molecular study in greater depth.
"The initiative came about because I realized raspberries and their close variant, blackberries, are rarely studied fruits that have economic importance for Chile," Fuentes said.
"In general, the Rubus genus has had very little study on a genetic level. So we chose Heritage (Rubus idaeus L. cv Heritage) because it's a variety that has adapted very well to Chilean conditions. It has good production from November to April, depending on the conditions. Availability is a main reason we chose this variety."
The study emphasizes the fruits' cellular structure, the genes involved in processing and hormones that could regulate the ripening process.
"I focused on post-harvest issues for raspberries, because if you harvest it ripe in the field, it will be in bad condition two days later in the refrigerator. The objective is to know how to prolong shelf life through hormonal and other treatments," the researcher said.
Currently, the researcher is collaborating with the post-harvest unit at the Agricultural Research Institute (INIA) La Platina, where the team has applied auxin hormone treatments for plant growth and ethylene to promote plant ripening and senescence. Researchers will then evaluate how these treatments impact fruit quality.
"At first there was considerable controversy if ethylene was involved in ripening or not. Now, we are seeing that this does have implications when fruit is on the plant," she said.
Fuentes emphasized the importance that such research can have for the country, given its focus on specific climatic conditions and soil types.
"This benefits the country for varieties that will be tested in Chile. When tested abroad and brought to Chile, we later realize that they do not produce results under our conditions, Fuentes said.
Asked about eventual applications for other varieties and fruits, Fuentes said, "the gene sequences are similar enough, so if we had the genomes from different varieties, it would be great to create new varieties."
"With respect to molecular markers for improvements in other fruits, that is what INIA La Platina is working on with table grapes. All table grape improvements in Chile are based on this, which could eventually be applied to other export fruits."